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Sunday, 19 December 2010


The official newsletter of The Drover's Camp Assn Inc. Camooweal

VOL # 7 Issue 5 December 2010


Hope you all have a Happy Christmas and wonderful New Year

President's Report

Gooday All,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - I can't believe another year has gone!

Congratulations to Brian Williams and Jillian Fisher on the membership draw winners also to Roberta and Keith Luscombe on winning the Christmas raffle (both prizes).

I wish everyone who isn't feeling well at this time a speedy recovery - Tony Anderson (our new committee member), I hope you're feeling A1 now after giving us all a scare with your heart attack.

Rotary are planning to put permanent shade covers over the grandstands at the Bronco Branding yard early in the new year - this will be greatly appreciated.

I would like to thank my committee for their help this year - in particular, Carmel Williams for compiling this newsletter all year, also Ellen and Paul Finlay for house minding at this present time while Col and I are away.

Well folks I hope those who aren't getting rain, get some for Christmas and those who have been inundated get some reprieve! Merry Christmas to all so until next year.

Yours in droving, Liz

27th Sept 1930 - 14th Sept 2010

Scrubba Watkins

Sadly, an old mate of ours has lost the battle with ill health. Scrubba was a great supporter and friend of The Drovers Camp in Camooweal and we will miss his great letters of expansive scribe and cheery phone calls. We recently published recollections by Scrubba. Scrubba was never a boss drover but worked for the likes of Max and Graham Shepley, Dick and Angus Scobie, and Gordy Oldfield (bringing cattle down the Birdsville track to Marree) to name a few. Scrubba also turned his hand to tourism and successfully operated a tourist venture in Alice Springs for 22 years. He was involved in the National Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs. He offered the Drovers Camp great support financially and was a tremendous advocate for our organisation for many years.

Nine days after Scrubba passed away, his partner of many years, Imelda passed away on the 23 September, 2010. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family in this difficult time.

We would like to thank people who donated monies ($150) to the Drovers Camp at Scrubba’s funeral.
Leo and Doreen Watkins, Shayne & Dianne Chace, Russel & Rachael Watkins, Maurice Watkins and Pat, Roger & Rhonda Watkins, Neil & Lorraine Klaebe & Brian, Brian & Jeanette Fitzpatrick - THANK YOU


Vic Remfrey

Born in Echuca, Victoria in 1924, to parents Oscar and Margaret Remfrey the youngest of 7 children, Vic Remfrey started helping his father with sheep droving at an early age.
In 1944 Vic met and married Lila Hopkins. They went droving sheep with a wagonette around Victoria until the birth of Oscar (Ock) in 1945, when they upgraded to an Austin truck with a caravan which they used for many years.

In the late 40's Vic and Lila shifted west of Bourke moving bigger mobs of both sheep and cattle to the railheads to greener pastures. This and their growing family kept them busy for the next 20 years.

Vic and Lila eventually went further north to the Gulf Country with their 6 children and started their first Gulf job on Armraynald in 1968, contract mustering. This was one of many jobs droving and contract mustering they did in the Gulf and as the children grew up and headed their own ways in life Vic and Lila bought a block at Cloncurry and took on smaller droving trips. In 1985 after a severe heart attack and life saving surgery Vic and Lila went back to Armraynald to be closer to family and back to the work Vic loved.

Vic's support for his family never wavered and he is survived by his wife Lila, children Ock, Lila, John, Dorothy, Alan and Clare and their families.

Merv Rowland

It is with saddness we tell of the passing of Merv Rowland, one of Australia's finest saddlers and craftsmen. Merv lost a short battle with Cancer and passed away on the 22nd of October 2010.
Merv was buried in Kingaroy on the 28th October, 2010.

Merv was well known in the Mount Isa district with his beautiful saddles being prized trophies at the Mount Isa Rodeo.

Alf Chambers

Alf Chambers was born 31st October in 1923 in Mitchell, Queensland. He started droving in 1938 with his father, Joseph Sydney Chambers. His family left Mitchell to go to Eva Downs in the N.T. They owned and worked Eva Downs for 24 years. Alf went to Taroom on the Dawson River in 1960. He was well known for his book "Battlers on the Barkly". Alf passed away peacefully on 9th September, 2010.

Mick Kemp

Born in Forbes in 1929 Mick Kemp owned his own droving plant by the age of 16.
The life of a drover meant spending months on the road, sometimes Mick would be on the road for 11 months at a time.
Mick and his wife Beryl had seven children and the family often helped him on the road.
While on the road Mick's late wife Beryl would teach all the children by distance education and cook to feed all the droving crew.
Although a drover at heart Mick also dabbled in boxing and bookmaking. As a boxer he was taught by Bantam weight champion of Australia Mickey Miller and won several fights before dermatitis meant he could no longer continue.
After retiring from droving Mick managed properties before finally settling in Cooinda Retirement Village. Since retiring his friends and family urged him to put his many stories into a book, so he did.
Along the Drovers Beaten Track and 30 years Droving at its best are Mick's books where he said only a fraction of his life is spoken about.

Source The Inverell Times

To the memory of my good friend of yesteryear - Ron Cody

Ron Cody was born on 9th August, 1926 in Bendigo in Victoria. He was raised by his aunt and died on 24th September, 2010.
Cody (as he was known as) worked in the Kimberleys in the 40's on Waterloo and Limbunya, also on Alexandria and Avon Downs in the Camooweal area. He lived in the Winton District for the past 60 years. He was a first class stockman, drover, fencing and yard builder. He also worked as an opal gouger. He bought a droving plant off Steve Clancy who was the son of Mace Clancy who managed Barkly Downs for many years. He sold the plant later to Jack Stead, a well known drover from the Channel Country. Ron is survived by his children, Steven, Larry, Bobby, Joanne and Valarie. My sincere condolences to the family. Until we meet again old friend somewhere in a droving camp on the great stockroutes in the sky.

Your old mate Rod Watson
(And all of us at the Drovers Camp)



Reflections of a Droving Family's Descendent (Paul Finlay)

My wife Ellen and myself are on the committee of the Drover's Camp Association. Her grandfather, Blake Miller brought the first mob of a thousand cows across the Murranji from west to east in 1904 for Sidney Kidman. Following came the Lewis brothers and "Jumbo" Smith each with a thousand head.

The Finlay Family Drovers

My grandfather Arthur Henry (Pop) Finlay sold his half share in Thorntonia Station when his partner Paddy Synott died in the late 1930's. He moved to Camooweal and started droving to make a quid. His eldest son Arthur Rupert Alexander Finlay (Fin) began droving around the same time and continuously drove cattle for 26 years. He took his last mob from Lake Nash to Dajarra in 1964.The other three Finlay brothers Nathan Thomas (George), Wray Francis (Wray) and Thomas Francis (Tom) all had a career in droving over many years.

I always regretted not doing any proper droving trips. The only bit of droving that I did was when we used to walk our small mob of steers to Camooweal which was a four day trip and the only night we had to watch the steers was on the second night when we camped on the Morstone/Rocklands boundary. The other two nights we used the Morstone station yards and the Chester Creek small bronco /mustering yards on Rocklands. Also I gave the Miller family, on some occasions, a hand to walk their bullocks from Undilla to Splitrock from where they used to go by road trains to Mt Isa Railway trucking yards from where they used to rail to Borthwicks Meatworks at Bowen. Those old drovers were really good cattlemen. They and their good team of men never had any "accreditation" but they knew how to look after cattle. It was their trade. A lot of the drovers used to always have a young person on the road with them so that the youngster could "learn the ropes". I remember the old fellow used to always say that those short trips of three weeks to a month were ideal for young people to get a bit of experience as the longer trips were too hard on the youngsters. Their bodies were still growing as they were mostly teenagers and they found the long hours a bit tough. I remember names like Charlie Ah Wing, Benny Trindle, Jim Dalton, Gary Dalton and Billy Watson being on short trips like Morstone to Dalgonally, Lawn Hill to Kajabbi and Lake Nash to Dajarra.

When my now deceased brother John was born in 1940, Dad (Fin) was taking bullocks from Marion Downs to Dajarra. As they were yarding these bullocks the Marion Downs manager drove up and parked his car at an appropriate position away from the yards. After Dad and his men yarded the cattle the manager drove up and gave Dad a telegram, which gave the news to Dad that Mum had given birth to a son. The manager asked Dad what he wanted his son to be when he grew up. Dad said "I hope he's not a drover like me. You do not have to have too many brains to be a drover like me".The manager said "I do not agree with you because you and your men yarded the bullocks without any trouble. Previous drovers had trouble yarding up and used to "do" (lose) bullocks." What Dad did, was to cut (divide) the bullocks and yard up a quarter of the bullocks at a time. He left a couple of men with the main mob and yarded the bullocks in four smaller mobs which were easier to handle. He said to the manager that it was only common sense what they did.

He told me that droving was a good way to e"arn a quid" but it was a hard life. You were away from your wife and small children for the majority of the year and most times when the children were born you were away on a droving trip. Droving was made a lot better if you had a good team of men especially a good cook.

I remember one of the good old cooks that Dad employed was Joe Marks. He was a real old character and Dad said he came up into this country to get out of the Sydney "underworld". In 1943 Dad and his team of men including Joe as cook and Ernie Burke (from White Hills station near Kajabbi) as horse tailer, took a mob of cattle from Barkly Downs near Camooweal to Collarenbri in New South Wales. They were six months on the road and the cattle changed ownership three times. Old Joe used to say to me in Camooweal when he retired "I must have been a good cook, boy, because we had the same team or men for the whole trip". Dad always had good horses and this aspect made a favourable enticement for prospective men to do a trip.

Norfolk Station was where I lived for 48 years. When Dad bought the Norfolk block there were no improvements on it. Fin used to say that the Norfolk block was the leftover country that the big stations did not want. It was joined on its boundaries by the big stations Lawn Hill, Riversleigh, Morstone and Rocklands plus the Holt block and Highland Plains. There was about 20 square mile of good black soil downs country on the southern portion which adjoined Morstone and Rocklands which would make an ideal horse paddock for the droving plant horses belonging to him and his brothers. They were sick of paying agistment on the Camooweal Common for their plant horses at the end of the year when the droving season had finished. They had Ginty Gorrie drill a bore hole which pumped at roughly 1000 gallons per hour at a site where the Norfolk homestead now stands. They then had to erect fencing to make a decent sized paddock on this good area of country. They also had the services of Bob Clancy (son of Mace Clancy) to erect a Turkey's Nest.

Fred Hird, who was fencing on Morstone wanted to go droving. He had a Harry Ferguson Tractor and a posthole digger and other tractor accessories, so they did a swap. Fred received the complete droving plant. Thirty five to forty horses along with all of the gear to go droving (such as riding saddles, hopples, bridles, eating utensils etc). George, Tom and a couple of others sunk the post holes with the digger and erected wooden fence posts during the day and Dad (Fin) went along at night time with the carbide light and hand bored three holes in each post that were stood during the day. Next day a couple of men ran the top plain and two barbs and strained up that section whilst more holes were sunk and posts erected. This was done towards the end of the year and I remember Mum telling us how Tom was really suntanned by the end of the job.

I can remember when I was a little fellow at home in the early nineteen sixties, the horses coming into water in their own groups (plants of between 35 to 40 horses). Dad had two plants (one plant had George Watson in charge), Tom had a plant, George had a plant, and now and then Uncle Wray would come from the Gulf and leave his horses in the paddock over the wet. There were always plenty of broke in horses at Norfolk and as kids we were lucky to have such a wonderful variety of horses to learn to ride on.

Dad used to always maintain that on droving trips it was very important that the team of men get along well. They were together 24 hours of the day. He used to tell us, on those long boring days when you were shifting cattle, to think about things that make you happy. For example, kissing a pretty girl, eating a nice meal or reading a favourite book. In that frame of happy mind the day will go quicker and there is a less chance of getting impatient or cranky.

Fin told me that he learnt a lot about handling cattle from Walangie (Jack) Clark who used to own Thorntonia before he sold it to Paddy Synott. He then moved onto Barr Creek. Old Pop Finlay owned the Old Thornton and when Paddy Synott bought Thorntonia, Pop and Paddy became partners. Pop and his family moved up to Thorntonia. Also he learnt a lot about life and cattle handling from Blake Miller. Fin used to say that you were only as good as the men in your droving plant. If you looked after your men they would look after your cattle, your horses, your gear and you.

Although most of the droving days have finished, it is still nice to observe that a lot of the old cattle handling methods are still used. I am only sixty years of age but I have mustered down the Gregory River for about ten years with pack horses and a tiny flat swag. I have seen Helicopters come in. This has done away with the skill of being able to track cattle in order to find them. It is good to see places still blocking cattle up and letting them cool down even if they are using motor bikes and four wheel drives. But you have to go with the times. However it is nice to remember what went before. Australian people are only just beginning to record their past history and it should be more of it .For as time rolls by, people's memories fade and we think there is plenty of time to put it all down on paper. I sincerely hope that you readers have enjoyed this little bit of the past that I have "put down on paper".

Reflections from Rod Dempster

I have been able to "walk down memory lane" when I read the printed memoir of Scrubba (Jack) Watkins - Cattle Pads, July, 2010.

I am the son of Mick Dempster. Recalled on page 10, my late father managed Granite Downs when "Ironbark" Jim Davey had the station. My father was both cattleman and contract tank sinker, his plant, driver operated.

Mick went to Granite Downs with his plant from Idracowra N.T. around the end of 1952 and ran the tank sinking plant and the cattle in the absence of Davey who rarely came near Granite, and when he did he drove his black Bentley car, top of the range. My father was the station driver / chauffer.

Mother had succumbed to T.B. at Idracowra and was recuperating after a long period in Broken Hill - hospitalized. At Granite she was not a strong person and needed the house girls Jessie and Topsy and some others to help. Jessie made the best bread!! Adjacent to the kitchen was a cool room, the refrigeration driven by a single banger 8 H.P. Lister diesel. The monotonous thump, thump, thump, nearly drove my mother to an end.

Scrubba (Jack) Watkins made me relive an event. I have told on a few occasions only to be given a breath of bullshit about it. He was absolutely correct, however I only recollect Tom and Henry Singer, the other names have passed me with time.

This mob was real bad. I remember so well when Mick was away for a very long time. Mum was assured, his word was given -- "Only going out to the camp to get them away and take the count!! I'll be back this afternoon". Days went by and then the week, Mick had not returned and the absence continued. Well as Jack has said, this mob was a bit rough and as the days passed worry was beginning to build, seriously. Continually us kids would ask, "but you said Dad would be home, but that was a long time ago, when!! Where is he?"
A rare passing car, mum would ask, have you seen Mick? No why? Have you seen the cattle? If you see him please tell him for me. I saw the tear in her eyes, the distress of where? when? What happens now???? Mick had not returned and we would press the question , but you said he was coming home!!

Mick had good men with him and my mother was experienced in cattle, she had spent time in the mustering camp at Quinyambie S.A., Naryilco Qld, and Limbunya, N.T. pack horse plant, but this time was different, stress was evident, I do not know how many days he was on the road to Oodnadatta. He stayed all the way through and my grief was he lost my new Neil McLellan Stockwhip, it is somewhere between Granite and Oodna, As Dad said, sorry mate, it's hung up in a mulga, the cattle were too rough to go back for it.
Neil McLellan was known, a renown whip plaiter and also Mick's uncle, this was my birthday present, gone forever.

Trucking at Oodnadatta was an event when Mick would worry the authorities. The air strip was near the face of the yards and when necessary he put rogue cattle over the fence, leave them contained until yarding was done. The airstrip mob was the final task with plenty of men to finish the job.

Mick returned to the homestead on the first vehicle travelling north. My mother scrambled with every emotion, she needed time to collect her every feeling. Us kids were so, so, glad to be with the bloke we simply loved.
I spent 34 years with my father on the station and on the machines, it was in the camp he would relate past experiences, as Ernie Giles said with few words, "A very experienced man".

I have been with Mick and bad cattle, he was only a small man, however he had what it took to make things happen. The years at Granite Downs were long ago, we departed Granite 1955, reasons valid, more good times than bad. My friends remain, indigenous to the region, and occasionally I meet even though changes have happened. My father recalled and spoke of this mob even in his later years, he passed on 13-10-79, where he was born, in the regions of the Strezlecki Desert.

Cheers Rob Dempster

Winners - raffle draws

Foundation & Life Membership Draw $250
No. 048 Brain Williams

Membership Draw $250
No. 273 Jillian Fisher

1ST Prize - Christmas Cake - K & R Luscombe of Pittsworth
2nd Prize - Whip - K & R Luscombe of Pittsworth
Drawn 7th Dec, 2010 at the Post Office Hotel by Father Mick Lowcock.


If you have ever worked for a boss who reacts before getting the facts and thinking things through, you will love this!

Arcelor-Mittal Steel, feeling it was time for a shake up, hired a new CEO. The new boss was determined to rid the company of all slackers!
On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning against a wall. He asked the guy, "How much money do you make a week?" A little surprised, the young man looked at him, and said "I make $400 a week. Why?"
The CEO said, "Wait RIGHT THERE!"
He walked back to his office, came back in two minutes and handed the young man $1,600 in cash and said "There's four weeks pay. Now GET OUT and don't come back!"
Feeling pretty good about himself the CEO looked around the room and asked "Does anyone want to tell me what that goof-ball did here?"
From across the room a voice said, "Pizza delivery guy from Domino’s!"

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